The Abbey of Fontevraud
Classified as a Historic Monument since 1840, it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000, along with the entire Loire Valley. In a green valley a few kilometres from the Loire, close to Saumur, Fontevraud is an essential stopover for Loire tourism. A stopover, but also a destination… For a place that is essentially unique!
A “VERY SINGULAR FOUNDATION” / FOUR PRIORIES LED BY A WOMAN
From the moment it was founded, almost a thousand years ago, by an eccentric monk, the Abbey has been a “very singular foundation”. A place of social and sexual diversity! The Royal Abbey is run by an abbess, who houses both men and women in four priories: Sainte-Marie for the “contemplatives”, Sainte-Marie-Madeleine for the lay sisters, Saint-Jean de l’Habit for the monks and Saint-Lazare for the sisters who care for lepers.
FROM AN ABBEY CHERISHED BY KINGS / TO A PRISON MOST FEARED
The 13 hectares on which the various buildings are spread out, today a bustling place of life (artists, visitors and congress participants cross paths), bear witness to the importance of an abbey that was directly attached to royalty. The recumbent figures of Eleanor of Aquitaine, her husband Henry II Plantagenet and their son Richard the Lionheart, on display in the abbey church, are reminders of this glorious past. Walking along the cloister, visiting the chapter house or the kitchens of the Royal Abbey, is also to understand what the daily life of the nuns who lived there was like. Finally, it is to imagine that these places gave way, in the 19th century, to one of the toughest prisons in France…